“It did my heart good not to see him,” said Wausau Warming Center volunteer and Marshfield Clinic Health System Special Procedures Technologist Mary Morris, of a regular Warming Center guest. “Whenever we don’t see them, it’s a good thing, because we only see them when they’re down on their luck.”
Mary Morris and her coworker, Senior Accounting Assistant Patti Timken, have helped many homeless guests settle in for the night at the Wausau Warming Center. They believed in its work enough to nominate it for Security Health Plan’s Employee-Driven Giving Campaign, funding dedicated to organizations that make a healthy difference in their communities. Security recently invested $1,000 toward the Warming Center’s services.
The Center shelters up to 25 homeless adults at a time from Nov. 1 to April 30, 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. During their stay, guests receive access to showers, a warm dinner and a simple breakfast, limited basic supplies such as boots and mittens, and laundry services. Warming Center Coordinator Barbara Sugden also works with guests to connect them with resources throughout the state to help them attain permanent housing and overcome any obstacles to housing, including finding stable employment.
Last year, the Warming Center served 160 different people. Ninety-five people had already used the shelter as of Jan. 1, 2017.
“There are a lot of things I could never handle. Being cold is one of them. Especially up north,” Morris said. “When guests come in, they are given one tote to place all their belongings in and a pair of scrubs to wear during their stay. It’s a humbling experience to see people fit everything they have in one tote – knowing you have at least ten full of Christmas ornaments alone at your own home.”
The Warming Center is always in need of volunteers to help with guest intake, cooking and serving meals, and coordinating the nightly volunteers. Timken invites anyone interested to, “Just come and observe. You’ll see real people with basic needs, who are often ostracized by our society. It’s good for the community to understand these are people who often just fell on hard times and never thought it would happen to them.”
Timken and Morris say volunteering at the Warming Center has changed them. “If you aren’t around homelessness and don’t understand it, you don’t see it. The homeless are visible to me now. Before, I didn’t see them. They’re at the mall, in the libraries, wandering stores, just trying to stay warm,” Morris said.
Every month Security Health Plan donates $1,000 as part of its Employee-Driven Corporate Giving campaign. Marshfield Clinic Health System employees are encouraged to nominate an organization that is making a positive difference in the community.